REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble

Haagen Dazs Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble

This past holiday weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the mile-high city of Denver. I saw the Rocky Mountains, miles and miles of rolling amber prairie, and the giant Zombie Demon Horse at the airport.

Oh, you’ve never heard of this nightmarish equine fiend from Hell?

It’s a thing of rare, unmitigated monstrousness with its jagged, shiny metal form, gaping mouth, wildly probing tongue, and glowing red eyes. It fuels dark visions of the end times and makes one wonder whether the city of Denver is the ideal location for a zombie demon invasion, what with the mountains providing protection from the hordes of undead monsters and all. It also invites speculation as to whether the airport’s Zombie Demon Horse, itself, would be the thing that allows these foul creatures to enter our dimension. Would this 32-foot statue be the glowing, neon sign that declares “Denver is Open for Zombie Demon Business?” I only mention this Zombie Demon Horse because it has exactly one thing in common with the new Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble ice cream: It’s blue.

Haagen Dazs Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble Open Carton

Much like being subjected to night-terror-inducing public works of art, it isn’t often that we encounter naturally-occurring blue food. I can count all the blue foods I’ve eaten on one hand: blue potatoes, blue corn chips, bleu cheese (it’s the mold that’s blue), and, of course, blueberries. There is no shortage of blueberries in Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble, which gives it a nice, violet color. It’s smooth and isn’t clumpy, which certain types of fruity ice cream seem to be.

With my first bite, I was wowed by the Blueberry Crumble’s flavorful combination of real blueberries and fresh cream. The packaging boasts of ripe, simmered blueberries, and frankly, I think they’ve hit a home run with the recipe. Nothing about it tastes artificial – this is made from real fruit. A quick scan of the ingredients lists confirms a refreshing lack of chemical additives and preservatives.

Haagen Dazs Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble Scoops

The texture of the ice cream is smooth and dense, and the crushed blueberries are evenly mixed throughout. However, the “cobbler crust crumbles” – tiny pieces of buttery cobbler that have been folded into the ice cream — are not as plentiful as we are led to believe. Every third bite may include some of the crumble, but overall, it’s mostly blueberry-flavored ice cream. Not what I expected, since the label strongly suggests that you’ll be digging into something that would be at least 50 percent crumbly. The tiny bits of cobbler taste yummy and are an interesting addition, but the pieces aren’t large enough and don’t add much to the experience. The Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble is tasty, but I wish it was bursting with cobbler crumbles.

The Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble may be just the thing to have in the mountains while we’re taking shelter from the zombie demon apocalypse. It’s pretty cold up there, so we can leave the ice cream just about anywhere. In fact, it may be the only thing we’ll have to eat for months, since the power grid will go down within three hours of the Zombie Demon Horse’s clarion call to arms for the denizens of the Underworld. I suggest you start stocking up on Blueberry Crumble now and head for the hills.

(Nutrition Facts- ½ cup (102 grams) –250 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 21 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, 0% vitamin A, 8% calcium, 0% vitamin C and 0% iron.)

Item: Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble
Price: $3.99
Size: 14 ounces
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Made from real blueberries and fresh cream. Blue foods are rare. Smooth and dense texture. Violet. The majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Yummy buttery crust crumbles. Delicious, ice-cream-based survival.
Cons: Zombie Demon Horses. Misleading label. Terrifying works of public art. Cobbler crust crumbles are small and don’t add much to the experience. Wildly probing tongues. Gateway airports to the Underworld.

REVIEW: Yoplait Delights Parfait (Chocolate Eclair & Cherry Cheesecake)

Yoplait Delights Parfaits (Chocolate Eclair & Cherry Cheesecake)

I’m a woman, so I know how to eat indulgent foods. When I found out about the two new flavors of Yoplait Delights Parfaits (Chocolate Éclair and Cherry Cheesecake) I knew the occasion called for the Ultimate Feminine Eating Method (UFEM). For those of you unfamiliar with the Method, the first thing you should know is that it requires a lot of smiling. And dancing. And spoons.

With the Chocolate Éclair Delights in hand, I curled up, barefoot, on the window seat in my sunlit, carefully-arranged, shabby chic living room to sample its dense, chocolate-y goodness. The velvety texture of the vanilla custard yogurt layered on top of the rich, dark chocolate yogurt base was sufficiently happiness-inducing, though it wasn’t really what I define as a parfait due to its lack of layering with other foods (e.g. fruit, granola). When I read the label and saw that my delicious and life-affirming snack was only 100 calories, I leapt to my feet to change into some tight, faded denim jeans so that I could prance wildly in front of my full-length mirror and pull my waistband away from my mid-section with glee.

Yoplait Delights Parfaits Chocolate Eclair

The fact that it is scoop-able was also a plus for me because the Ultimate Feminine Eating Method dictates that I only indulge upon things I can eat with a spoon; it simplifies the Method’s standard of luxuriating in a food’s low-fat flavor by allowing you to suck on the spoon for 10 seconds in ecstasy while your eyes roll back in your head. But 10 seconds is all you get. Any longer, and you’re a big, fat pig, and no one will love you.

Still strictly adhering to the UFEM, I took the Cherry Cheesecake Delights to the shore for some impromptu, self-important beach yoga. With the sun’s rays blessing my energetic Virabhadrasana/Warrior II pose, I helped myself to a single spoonful. It wasn’t terrible, but the artificial cherry flavored yogurt left a lot to be desired, and the creamy, cheesecake-flavored base didn’t really taste like cheesecake. Believe me, I know what cheesecake tastes like. I’ve eaten the low-cal, sugar-free, spoonable, mini cheesecake bites offered by other lady-friendly snack lines, and you, sir, are no cheesecake.

Yoplait Delights Parfait Cherry Cheesecake

Despite the Cherry Cheesecake Delights’ shortcomings, it earned a Method-certified, spoon-cleaning lick, and I suddenly felt compelled to abandon my Garudasana and launch into a series of slow-motion cartwheels in the sand, overcome by the sugariness of it all. Then I got dizzy and face-planted in a little kid’s sand castle. Eating a spoonful of food per day leaves you pretty weak. But I sure look great in my yoga outfit.

Yoplait Delights are like deluxe pudding cups (another food item that makes me want to salsa dance with a sexy, faceless stranger in a fancy dress while laughing my head off), and their texture is not too far off from that. They come in four ounce cups, perfect for hiding in one’s purse for ultimate deniability. The Ultimate Feminine Eating Method dictates that a lady must never be seen eating things in public. She must only consume food in private… and partake in a side-splitting laugh or two while doing that.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 container/4.0 oz (113 grams) – Chocolate Éclair – 100 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, 200 milligrams of potassium, and 9 grams of protein. Cherry Cheesecake – 100 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, 180 milligrams of potassium, and 9 grams of protein.)

Item: Yoplait Delights Parfait (Chocolate Éclair and Cherry Cheesecake)
Price: $1.99 (on sale; regular price $3.79)
Size: 4 pack
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Chocolate Éclair)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Cherry Cheesecake)
Pros: Sexy faceless strangers. Chocolate Eclair was sufficiently happiness-inducing. 100 calories per serving. Spoons. Mirror dancing. Laughing alone with food.
Cons: Big, fat un-loveable pigs. Lack of adequate parfait layering. Cheesecake-flavored base didn’t really taste like cheesecake. Artificial cherry flavored yogurt left a lot to be desired. Snacking with a utensil while maintaining a standing yoga pose. Cheesecake impostors. Sand in your face. Eating in public.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Eggo Thick & Fluffy Waffles (Original & Cinnamon Brown Sugar)

Kellogg's Eggo Thick & Fluffy Original Waffles

Borrowing things from overseas to sell on our shores is a tricky business. As with any translation, we run the risk of not getting it quite right. Like turning the infinitely-watchable E4 series Skins into a show that no one (save for The Parents Television Council who wants to kill it with fire) cares to watch… or transforming the delicioso Mexican corn-cake-style gordita into the well-known and often-devoured Taco Bell Gordita that is basically a taco made with pita bread. How they made the leap to the Middle East by way of Mexico, I have no idea. I guess, to them, foreign food is foreign food. We’re lucky they didn’t try to stuff haggis in there.

The process of repackaging these things for consumption in the United States is clearly an attempt to make them more palatable for Americans, however unrecognizable they become. But it doesn’t explain why Kellogg’s would revise the Belgian waffle for their Eggo brand by making them toaster-sized instead of plate-sized and octagonal instead of round (or square) and calling them “Thick & Fluffy ” waffles. Did they think consumers wouldn’t understand these waffles if they used the word “Belgian”? They’ve been around for 50 years. I think we get it. Semantics aside, what it really comes down to is whether the waffles have deep pockets and taste good. For the most part, they do.

Eggo Thick & Fluffy waffles come in two flavor varieties: Cinnamon Brown Sugar and Original Recipe. The name “Original Recipe” conjures up visions of crispy, golden fried chicken offered by string-tied Southern gentlemen with dubious military origins, yet as a Roscoe’s devotee, I can attest to the fact that fried chicken does pair well with waffles. Maybe this title wasn’t unintentional.

The Original Recipe waffle was exceptional. It has a certain extra something (probably sodium) that makes the waffle taste extra malty. I scoured the ingredients list and didn’t see anything about malt, though, so I could just be imagining it. Maybe my previous experiences with other Belgian fluffy and thick waffles created an expectation for malt flavor.

Kellogg's Eggo Thick & Fluffy Cinnamon Brown Sugar Waffles

On the flip side, I was all ready to love the Cinnamon Brown Sugar waffle, being the brown sugar & cinnamon addict that I am, but it was just OK. The flavor just doesn’t “pop.” It’s not super sweet, but it’s also not very cinnamon-y. Blah Sugar. Cinna-Zzzzz. The experience is underwhelming. Way to not be an enabler, Kellogg’s. I’m one step closer to recovery.

Despite the fact that it’s a toaster waffle, I was expecting preparation to be a breeze. Logistically, it is pretty easy. Place in toaster… Toast… The End. But the toasting instructions specify that you may need to use two toasting cycles in order to evenly heat the waffle. That’s far too long for a toaster-based convenience breakfast. I hate double-toasting. It ruins the feeling of relief you experience once the toaster pops up because as soon as it does, you just have to push it back down again and start all over. It’s totally defeating. Bad way to start the day.

Kellogg's Eggo Thick & Fluffy Cinnamon Brown Sugar Waffle Naked

Another negative is that even though these are Thicker & Fluffier, they don’t make you feel any fuller — just the opposite. The extra carbs and sugar you ingest in the thicker waffle make you crash faster… and if you double-up on the serving size (eating two waffles instead of one), it just makes things worse.

That’s another thing. The serving size is just one waffle, but the box shows two. WHY MUST YOU TOY WITH MY EMOTIONS, EGGO??? Sorry, that’s the cinnamon brown sugar withdrawal talking.

I appreciate Eggo’s take on Belgian waffles, though the Original Recipe flavor makes a tastier breakfast than the Cinnamon Brown Sugar one. They should try making crépes next… though they’ll probably call them “Eggo Thin & Flat Pancakes.” How gauche.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 waffle/55 grams – Original Recipe – 160 calories, 70 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 3.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 50 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, >1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. Cinnamon Brown Sugar – 170 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 270 milligrams of sodium, 50 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, >1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Eggo Thick & Fluffy Waffles (Original & Cinnamon Brown Sugar)
Price: $2.00 (on sale)
Size: 11.6 oz
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 10 out of 10 (Original Recipe)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Cinnamon Brown Sugar)
Pros: Corn cakes. Southern gentlemen. Invisible malt. Octagons.
Cons: Witch hunts. Haggis. Understanding waffles. Boring me with cinnamon. The long toast. Small serving size.

REVIEW: Amy’s Light & Lean (Soft Taco Fiesta and Pasta & Veggie)

Amy's Light & Lean (Soft Taco Fiesta and Pasta & Veggies)

January needs to be re-named “National Feel-Bad-About-What-You’ve-Done-To-Your-Body-The-Past-90-Days Month.” With all the commercials for Zumba, The Lap-Band, free gym membership trials, and conveniently-placed banner ads referring you to the “Top 10 Best Ways to Bust Your Booty,” it’s a wonder we don’t all suddenly gain 120 pounds from guilt and start rolling ourselves down the street to work each day. Why do we engage in this bizarre ritual of kidding ourselves every year when all anyone wants to do is eat yummy food and feel convinced that if they ran into Tom Hardy on the way to the Laundromat with their filthy socks and scads of unmentionables piled in a basket and their baggy, faded sweatpants on, he’d still give them the sexy-eye because daaaamn, they look good?

To combat the inevitable struggle of many of those hoping to shed pounds, the Amy’s team has done a pretty great job here, translating these normally fattening foods into the language of diet organic cuisine. Filling out the roster of new items: Spinach Lasagna, Black Bean & Cheese Enchilada, Pasta & Veggies, and Soft Taco Fiesta.

Amy's Light & Lean Soft Taco Fiesta Bowl

I went for the Soft Taco Fiesta first because I’d just bought a piñata and needed a reason to bust it open. No, I’m lying. I didn’t need a reason.

The colors used for the soft taco’s packaging are pretty muted for something that’s supposed to evoke a wild food party. The design is more circa 1990 Southwest Adobe-style retiree living room, and I felt more like taking a siesta than having a fiesta. WOCKA-WOCKA-WOCKA! No? Go to hell.

I have to say that once cooked, the contents of the bowl look pretty N-to-the-Asty. But, you see, this soft taco contraption is more like a taco pie without the crust than a street taco. The corn tortilla is layered between a mound of mild salsa with black beans and cheese and a bed of nicely-seasoned brown rice, corn, and vegetables. As a result, the tortilla isn’t necessarily firm, but it could be a lot worse. It doesn’t disintegrate under the weight of the sauce and seasonings. The ranchero salsa flavor is spicy, but not overpowering, and mingles nicely with the tomatillo blend. The result is a dish that has plenty of flavor and barely any of the sogginess one comes to expect from nuked Mexican food.

Amy's Light & Lean Pasta & Veggies Bowl

The Pasta & Veggies bowl is another convincing re-design of a popular ethnic food – thick, hearty sauce and grated parmesan cheese accompany a pretty filling bowl of rotini, crunchy asparagus, broccoli florets, and shallots, for fewer calories. Similar to the somewhat-robust tortilla in the Fiesta bowl, the noodles retain a nice texture and come out, as the Italians say, al dente. That’s right. I just got all Rosetta Stone on that azz. Another plus: there doesn’t appear to be any excess water at the bottom of the bowl after cooking, which tends to happen a lot with frozen pasta meals.

The ultra-literal name isn’t really something I can get behind, since it’s clearly pasta marinara in there… but, hey, if slapping the word “Veggies” on the box in order to align with the company mission statement – creating healthy, organic, vegetarian meals by any means necessary or something like that – helps you sleep at night, then go for it, Amy’s.

Though it also suffers from the same yawn-worthy pastel color scheme that turned my awesome personal taco party into a sober and mature taco observance, the Pasta & Veggie bowl’s flavor is kick-ass. I was shocked – SHOCKED to actually taste the parmesan cheese. So many of these so-called “diet” items really skimp on important accents such as cheese, but the Pasta & Veggies meal delivered. It tasted like the real thing, not some limp, flavorless imitation.

If National Freak-Out Month (January) is gonna be tough for you because you inhaled a metric shit-ton of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and mini Snickers bars in October, followed by plates and plates of cornbread stuffing and mashed potatoes coated in gravy in November, and then topped it all off with frosted Snowman cookies, latkes and gallons of egg nog in December, don’t throw yourself under the Little Debbie snack cake delivery truck just yet. There is hope, little plump one. Delicious hope.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bowl/227 grams – Soft Taco Fiesta – 220 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 560 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein. Pasta & Veggies – 210 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 470 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: Amy’s Light & Lean (Soft Taco Fiesta and Pasta & Veggie)
Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 8 ounces
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Soft Taco Fiesta)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Pasta & Veggie Bowl)
Pros: Tastes like the real thing. Tom Hardy. Low-fat/low-cal. Piñatas. Fozzie Bear.
Cons: Looking like a hot mess on laundry day. “Veggie.” Grandma’s condo in Santa Fe. The Lap Band.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Holiday Pie

McDonald's Holiday Pie

Of all the great rivalries we have in this country — Democrats vs. Republicans, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Edward vs. Jacob — there is only one that will truly last the test of time: Pie vs. Cake. Epic battles have been waged between these two desserts (I counted 120 on YouTube, alone), but it appears that this holiday season, McDonald’s has bravely attempted to bridge the gap, so that we may all bask in the glow of holiday togetherness. Behold, the Holiday Pie, a 250-Calorie hybrid for those who like a little pie in their cake and a little cake in their pie.

I bought mine for 69 cents PLUS tax, which is a travesty, considering they were sold for much less last year. It appears that McDonald’s may have come upon hard times and is scraping up every last nickel to spend on magical unicorn oil or whatever it is that they use to cook those awesome fries. Case in point, the McDonald’s where I purchased my Holiday Pie had been forced to hang old coffee cups from the ceiling as their Christmas decorations. Le sigh…

The presentation of this pie is a bit off-putting. First of all, there is a guy on the box who looks like he’s frantically trying to avoid having to kiss his amorous girlfriend who has most likely just polished off a limited-time-only McRib and now has killer onion breath. Second, the Holiday Pie is a “Special Order.” It says so on the sticker that someone lovingly placed on the box. How special? It’s special enough that it has sprinkles that remind no one of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan or Boxing Day. Which holiday does this thing represent, exactly? Sugar Puff Glitter Ponies Remembrance Day? The man on the box seems to beg for answers through his twisted scowl. But there are none to be had.

McDonald's Holiday Pie Innards

A fairly sweet and crumbly “sugar cookie” crust encapsulates a nuclear yellow pudding, which tastes an awful lot like yellow cake. You’ll notice I put a space in between the words “yellow” and “cake” in order to differentiate between the tasty baked food and the uranium-derived powder used in nuclear reactors. Strange that they both produce the neon colors present in this menu item. Coincidence? Only Mr. Kissy-Face on the box may know for sure. Maybe his desperate expression is meant to be a warning.

The Holiday Pie isn’t terrible. It’s sweet without being too sugary, and it’s served warm without scalding your mouth (like their molten lava-style apple pie). On the downside, the texture of the crust is slightly silty… like fine sand. There is also a strange, chemical aftertaste that accompanies the pudding, which makes me think I’m going to go home later and suddenly develop super powers. I call dibs on X-ray vision!!!

What? I like to watch.

So, yeah, the Holiday Pie. I’m not hating it… but I’m not lovin’ it.

(Nutrition Facts – 260 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of total carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, and a single, solitary gram of dietary fiber)

Item: McDonald’s Holiday Pie
Price: 69 cents
Size: 1 pie (2.7 oz)
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Pie/Cake hybrid, sweet & warm, 69 cents, Glitter Ponies, Special Order, The Holidays, super powers.
Cons: Possible nuclear components, 69 cents plus tax, onion breath, inexplicable sprinkles.